Walsall booked their place in the second round of the FA Cup with three fine finishes from Andy Cook, Josh Ginnelly and Nicky Devlin, in a five-goal thriller against Coventry City.
The visitors started brightly with Jonson Clarke-Harris fashioning the first meaningful chance of the first half. Threading the ball through to strike partner Jordan Shipley, the latter’s effort lacked conviction as he toe-poked into the arms of Liam Roberts.
But it was the Saddlers who broke the deadlock 12 minutes in – Zeli Ismail and Andy Cook combining. Cook stroked home his eighth of the season after Ismail brought the ball under control, backheeling the ball into the path of the number nine inside the area who kept calm to net the opener.
Roberts had to be alert once more to deny Clarke-Harris, surging forwards, looking to draw Coventry level almost instantly.
Shipley spurned another opportunity for the Sky Blues, pouncing on a short clearance but fizzing his effort wide from the angle.
The Saddlers impeccably observed a minute’s silence ahead of Remembrance Sunday and it was a day to remember for Josh Ginnelly. The winger tried his luck from 30 yards, his effort whistling wide of the woodwork but he would double Walsall’s advantage from much closer range moments later.
In the 28th minute, George Dobson’s long ball forward from the back found Ginnelly in the final third who latched onto the lofted pass, beating his man and prodding past Burge with the deftest of touches to make it 2-0.
The ever-pressing Clarke-Harris got his reward just after the half-hour mark, pouncing on a mix up at the back between Jon Guthrie and Russell Martin to side-foot beyond Roberts and half the deficit going into the break.
After the interval, the visitors came flying out of the blocks with Shipley going close from Jordy Hiwula’s centre.
Ten minutes into the second half, Luke Thomas found the equaliser with Roberts unable to hold the midfielder’s sweeping shot as it trickled underneath the shot-stopper.
With 25 minutes left on the clock, the Saddlers had a chance to retake the lead; Cook’s looping header dipping just in time but rebounding off the bar.
The Saddlers saw two penalty appeals waved away as Dobson, then Gordon took a tumble in the box. Referee Thomas Bramall adamant he had no need to point to the spot.
However, there was an unlikely hero in Nicky Devlin. The Scot blasted the ball emphatically beyond a hapless Burge and into the top corner for his first goal in Saddlers colours. Making it 3-2 in the process on 77 minutes after some great play from Liam Kinsella. With that, the Saddlers secured passage to the next round of the competition!
Saddlers team (4-4-2): Roberts; Devlin, Martin, Guthrie, Leahy; Ismail, Dobson, Kinsella, Ginnelly (Morris 90’); Gordon, Cook.
Attendance: 4,760 (2,665 Coventry fans)